President-elect Donald Trump held his first press conference on Jan. 12 since winning the 2016 Presidential Election. During the press conference, he spoke about a number of issues, including the publication of documents that suggest the Russian government has compromising information on Trump, the future of his business dealings and what he plans to focus on when he enters office, according to The Telegraph. Despite Trump starting to talk in greater detail about his plans once he takes office, his manner remained contradictory to the long established protocol for a presidential press conference. His disposition during the press conference was ill fitting for the leader of our country.
When he addressed the publication of the aforementioned questionable documents, Trump directed the blame on the intelligence community, as well as the media, in particular, the online news site BuzzFeed, who published a 35-page unverified dossier and CNN, who he repeatedly refused to take questions from, attempting to meld the actions of both organizations. Arguably, it remains highly debatable whether BuzzFeed should have released the documents and why they saw fit to publish something that, as it stands, lacks verification.
However, the actions taken by CNN regarding their reporting should be viewed differently. In fact, CNN’s actions were defended by an unlikely source, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith who stated, “President-elect Trump today told CNN’s Jim Acosta his organization amounts to fake news. CNN’s exclusive reporting on the Russian matter was separate and distinctly different from the document dump executed by an online news property.” Smith went on to say that despite being unable to confirm CNN’s report, Fox News believes that the former “followed journalistic standards” and that they should not be on the receiving end of Trump’s belittling comments.
One of the most crucial aspects of journalistic integrity that I have learned both in the classroom and in the newsroom is that the media must ensure the legitimacy of information. Whether that means in-depth fact checking or confirming that information is given proper attribution, there is no excuse for spreading false information. That being said, the unverified claim that the Russian government has information on Trump that we are not aware of currently loses its value, regardless of whether it is proven to be true in the coming weeks, months or years.
Nevertheless, Trump’s vehement and continued distrust of the media, as well as his disrespect toward journalists remains. Trump willingly answers questions from news sources that he believes do not print “fake news,” but he will ignore questions from other ones that he believes the opposite about or that he perceives to portray him in an unflattering light. The media should undoubtedly be held to the highest standard, but so must Trump. Rather than trying to convince the general public that the “liberal media” has an agenda to falsify information about him, he should simply be denying these claims, rather than protesting in a way that compromises First Amendment rights, which includes infringing on the freedom of the press.
According to The Telegraph, Trump also confirmed that he does now believe that Russia was responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. Previously, Trump denied the claim that Russia was responsible for the hacking, stating on Sept. 26, 2016 that the hacking could be by China or “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” reported NBC News. More recently, on Jan. 4, he tweeted that “Julian Assange [the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks] said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!’”
Moreover, despite his claim at the press conference that he does now believe that they are responsible for the hacking, he has not expressed concern regarding the hack, instead stating that it produced “valuable information” about Clinton and her associates, according to The Telegraph. The aforementioned is a shining instance of Trump’s contradictory manner at the press conference: he is prepared to condemn the release of documents that could harm his image, but if information is released on another person, the public suddenly has the right to know.
The reality of the situation is that there is a difference between intelligence and the media releasing unverified information to the general public and another country’s government interfering with our democracy in an effort to ensure a candidate’s election into office. The media certainly needs to do its research before throwing out claims that could be untrue as far as we know, and until there is confirmation that the Russian government does have information on Trump, they are only claims. Moving forward, rather than continuing to berate the media, Trump should focus on being the leader that our country needs: someone who exudes confidence, yet poise, without using his newly gained power to try and validate his vendetta against those who paint an unflattering, yet oftentimes accurate, portrayal of him.